Fringe Workshops

Studio One - Rutherford Mews

Saturday, August 15th


How to Become a Stand-up Comedian

Ben Caldwell | 10:00am-12:00pm (2 Hours)


Do you think you are funny? Like to make people laugh? Do people come up to you and say "you should be a comedian!" Or are there people that you say that to yourself? Well, this is the workshop for you (or them)! 


Join comedian and producer Ben 'Tito' Caldwell as he teaches you the basics of how to turn your funny stories, observations, rants, quips etc. into stage ready stand-up comedy. From learning how to hold a microphone effectively, to generating material so that you have new stuff to try out. We'll cover everything that you need to know if you are keen to jump up on stage and give it a go yourself. 


You'll also be filled in on where you can get stage time, etiquette around performing, how to get booked and what you need to thrive in a smaller provincial comedy scene, as well as transition to a larger scene like those in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.


What to bring

An open mind, ideas for material or bits you have written already, pens and paper, snacks and drinks to fuel your creativity and your voice to provide feedback to others. Stand-up comedy can be a very collaborative process and the feedback and ideas that you provide to people will be reciprocated in this workshop environment. 



Ben ‘Tito’ Caldwell has been performing stand-up comedy for 11 years and producing shows for 8 years. Originally from Nelson, he started his comedy career in Wellington in 2008 and has performed in a number of NZ International Comedy Festival shows over the years. He’s performed with the likes of James Acaster, Stuart Goldsmith, Brendhan Lovegrove, Justine Smith and Ben Hurley.


In 2012, he won the Spirit of the Festival for the Comedy Fest and in 2018 he won a People’s Choice Award at the GoMedia Comedy Carnival for best performer. His unique family dynamic provides the backdrop for his material and whilst it can be brutal and confronting, it’s also hilarious. 


Since 2017, Ben has been at the heart of a thriving comedy scene in Palmerston North, where he founded The Comedy Hub. Along with the local comics from the Manawatu, the scene is now recognised widely in NZ comedy as being incredibly supportive of both local and visiting acts, as well as producing a number of diverse acts over the past three and a half years. 


Now he’s branched out on his own and is running shows under his production company banner, DIY Comedy, around the Lower Central North Island.

Clowning, or How to Play in the Moment

Michael Armstrong | 1:00pm-3:00pm (2 Hours)


Come along to find your inner clown. The clown’s power comes from their ability to be in the moment and to share that moment with the audience. Come and rediscover how to play and be in the moment through improvisation and mime exercises. A good clown shares their world with their audience, they can create games in the moment with the audience. This can assist any performer, or even just people, in rediscovering the art of play in their day-to-day life.



Michael Armstrong originally trained at Circoarts in Christchurch (before it was destroyed following the Christchurch earthquakes). He then travelled around New Zealand performing with Circus Aotearoa before taking his unique quirky circus comedy around the world with his street show “Mr Wizowski featuring Craig the Stunt Carrot” appearing in festivals across Canada and at the Edinburgh Fringe. Career highlights include performing his one man stage show, Blown Away, with a live orchestra, speaking at TEDx Wellington on the use of psychology in street performance and creating and directing a show with 200 hundred children at Slipstream Circus in Tasmania. He recently returned to study to complete his Bachelor in Performance Art at Whitireia while creating his latest show, Diary of a Showman.

Sunday, August 16th


Story Gym for Writers (SOLD OUT)

Daniel Allan | 10:00am-12:00pm (2 Hours)


Story is king. Yet so many playwrights go about their writing without the proper recognition of universal narrative structures that are going to pull the audience into the action, and keep them there. Using the experience of a lifetime of performing, directing, writing and reviewing theatre, Dan Allan will take the participants through a veritable circuit training of story-telling tips. 


Have you got an idea for a play but wondering how to turn it into a narrative? Have you got a play but aren’t sure how to take its action from ‘okay’ to ‘breathtaking’? Or have you ever written a play and wondered why it hasn’t gone on to the success you’d hoped for? Whether just starting out, or an experienced playwright looking to ‘bulk up’ on story skills, this workshop could provide the workout your script needs to really work!


Note: This workshop will be divided into two halves. Firstly, Dan will take the participants through a series of story-telling tips as a seminar. Topics include: universal story types, must-dos for character, playing with time and structure, and effective dialogue.

Then, in the second half of the workshop, we will conduct an open script assessment of the participants work, with the aim of giving each participant a new direction for their next draft.



Participants will ideally have a draft, or at least an outline for a play, although it may be possible to come to the seminar only.



As an actor, director, writer, and reviewer of theatre, Dan Allan has been creating and presenting stories to audiences ever since playing Bugsy Malone in his intermediate school production in 1992. That year, Dan started learning about story structures through improvisation theory, and later put it into professional practice, performing for seven years with The Court Jesters in Christchurch, and more recently with The Deep End, People’s Republic of Improv and Cusp in Nelson. He has attended workshops with the god-father of modern improvisation, Keith Johnstone, and also enjoyed tutelage from Patti Styles, Michael Robinson, Miranda Harcourt, and kiwi author Carl Nixon. As well as improvised story-telling, Dan is well versed in devising original theatre, at one point studying Joseph Campbell’s narrative theories before embarking on a completely original physical theatre piece called Fleet, which toured NZ and South America. In 2009, he studied devising in a three week course at Zen Zen Zo in Brisbane, and subsequently created a piece of theatre based on The Bacchae during a week long masterclass. More recently, Dan has begun writing plays, adapting Robin Hood as a children’s theatre show, and with his wife Lisa, Alice in Wonderland, All the Fairytales You Know (and Some You Don’t), The Three Musketeers and The Importance of Being Earnest for performances by Body in Space, The Court Theatre, and NZ Playhouse. Dan’s solo show An Evening with Lord Nelson debuted at Nelson Fringe in 2018. He has a BA in History from the University of Canterbury, where he studied film and creative writing under Stuart Hoar. Dan hones his opinions on effective story-telling by reviewing for Theatreview and The Nelson Mail, and attending live theatre and films regularly. He is also addicted to Netflix.

Friday, August 21st


Solving Cryptic Crossword For Fun And Profit (Without The Profit)

Jim Fishwick | 11:30am-1:30pm (2 Hours)


Unlike their Quick cousins, Cryptic crosswords can seem impenetrable, as if they're deliberately written to be nonsensical. Well, here's a little insider secret: they are. If you want to get a leg-up on how to decode cryptic clues, and amaze your friends and family with your newfound wordplay expertise, this is the workshop for you!


Taught by crossword compiler and (semi-)professional puzzle designer Jim Fishwick, this workshop shows you how to unpick the perplexity, pinpoint the puns, and answer the anagrams. We'll solve a puzzle together as a group, and you'll come away with a new set of skills, feeling fully across the down clues, and down with the across ones.

Saturday, August 22nd


The Body-Voice Connection

Damara Sylvester | 9:30am-12:00pm (2.5 Hours)


We start life out with the ability to scream the roof off with no apology. As we grow up and find more articulate ways of communicating our ideas and needs, we also start closing off the connection between our voice and our body. We worry about what we sound like and what we're saying, and the censoring gets stored in the body.


In this workshop we'll look at a voice rebuild from the ground up, to find a power, expressivity and clarity in our speaking, singing or acting voices, connected to a strong, expressive body.


What to bring

Non-constricting clothing, water bottle, a 15 second piece of memorised text (speech, song, poem, nursery rhyme).



Damara Sylvester has been studying and developing mind-body theory and practice for the past 23 years. She has extensive experience training, teaching and performing internationally. She runs InsideOut Circus and Physical Theatre, directing shows and training kids, youth and adults how to bring forth their most richly expressive selves. She believes that a sense of play goes a long way in learning anything.

The Chorus | Physical Theatre Workshop

Donna Chapman | 1:00pm-4:00pm (3 Hours)

This workshop will explore and develop the skills and training for working in chorus and ensemble. The Chorus is the great linking device between the audience and the heroes, between gods and humans, the individual and the social, oral and literary.


With the currently growing interest in more community and participatory theatre, the chorus holds some keys for us. For example in the chorus we learn how to maintain individual creativity and spontaneity while in a group (rather than submerging in, or isolating from the group/tribe/community. At the same time we learn to access and con-join individual and collective wisdom and action, this is the historic intermediary role of the chorus that we will explore.

Short script work will be woven into the contemporary work of the chorus. 

This Workshop will take place in G Block on the NMIT Campus.


What to bring

Please wear comfortable clothing (preferably theatre blacks) and suitable soft shoes, or bare feet. Bring a light snack, for our break time, and water.



Workshop leader, Donna Chapman, has been a theatre practitioner for over 40 years. Her background covers training and work in a wide range of theatre practice and education.  She has a Master of Theatre Arts in Directing from Victoria University/Toi Whakaari. Her influences are Jacques Lecoq, Augusto Boal, Keith Johnstone, and Peter Brook. Her workshops are physical and vocally based. She specializes in group training for theatre and communication. She works in mediation/ training and supervision. Currently living in Nelson, she is an independent Marriage and Civil Union Celebrant.

© 2020 Nelson Fringe

Designed in Wix by William Hannah